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  • Writer's pictureLorna I. Robins

Your event is an environmental disaster waiting to happen and you're the cause! Part 1

WOW! Dramatic much? Everyone is talking about the environment and it's such a huge issue. It feels bigger than anything we could possibly do to help the environmental problems. Problems, that we clearly have and our planet is really letting us know it's getting tired of us taking advantage.

So why the heck is a caterer writing a blog about the environment? Well, I'm not just writing one blog about this but this is the first of two. Me adding the voice of a caterer whether others agree or not is something I feel is necessary even if it's just food for thought, (pun absolutely intended) and even if only one person reads it.

It's true we are all making small moves to help the environment, we recycle, freeze our food more, reduce our plastic use, and plant trees but did you know your event, big or small may have an impact on the environment? Let me explain.

Recently I catered a party and it was a milestone birthday so the host thought more people would come than actually did. (recently means 2019 not during the great unpleasantness). She ordered way too much food. I asked her 'do you plan your parties like this all the time, where you just guess your headcount?' She said 'doesn't everybody?' ERM NO! It got me thinking though. Are people this misinformed about something so crucial to the environment as massive avoidable food waste created by events OR do people in general just not know how to plan an event?

When Googling ‘avoidable crisis of food waste and causes’ you will find the 5 main causes of avoidable food waste according to Conserve Energy Future

  • Lack of appropriate planning. ...

  • Purchase and preparation of too much food. ...

  • Errors in industrial processing and keeping up with food safety policies. ...

  • Managerial, financial and technical constraints. ...

  • Over-preparation of food in restaurants, hotels and the food service industry.

What happens to food waste if not processed properly?

"if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide. About 6%-8% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced if we stop wasting food".World Wildlife Fund

Who is the cause of these problems?

Even reading that you can see a 'lack of appropriate planning' and 'it's the restaurants and food services that are the cause and to blame' for the massive amounts of food waste. And so you feel a bit smug about the fact that the avocados that you threw out on Wednesday are just not as bad as what these guys are responsible for.

I see what you mean but where do food businesses get their cues from?

for example, booking a table at a restaurant

The restaurant has a guaranteed reservation and so they know exactly how much food to get in for the people coming through the door, they make some allowances for choice and walk-ins. You made the reservation so you said you'd be there and they are ready to feed you. But then you don't show up. HMMMMMmmm! This can contribute to this food waste, so we as consumers are just as much to blame.

You're having a party and just like the lady in the above scenario, you take a stab at the headcount based on an extremely uneducated guess.

Guessing your headcount is a lack of appropriate planning as stated above as something to avoid due to its impact on the environment. So, let's actually look at how foolish guessing is. If you think giving out 120 invites means that 100 will show up, where did you get that information from? How did you come to that number? And if you then order food for that 100 people and at the actual event 70 show up, you've just bought food for 30 people who weren’t even coming in the first place. This is such a waste of your hard-earned money, the caterer's time and most importantly a grievous amount of food wasted. This is an irresponsible lack of planning and just so you know "a rookie mistake". Even if you have been planning family parties for years and think you're a badass planner and this is how you've always done it, you're a rookie.

I know this may be patronising to some people but those who plan parties by guessing need to know how not to guess.

Have you ever heard of an R.S.V.P? It is French, it stands for Respondez, s'il vous plaît. It means to respond, please. It's been around since 1845 and became popular in the early 1900s. Some would say this is very outdated, well maybe so but I think the planet would disagree. It's still used for weddings and by those who know how to plan a party like a boss. Outdated or not the r.s.v.p needs to be the norm again.

Why is r.s.v.p mostly used for weddings?

Because it is an important event and must be planned properly and responsibly. The chef needs to know exactly how many they're cooking for, so no one goes without. All events are as important as a wedding, all events need to be planned properly and responsibly.

So how is it planned?

1) You get a date for your party and a venue.

2) You save the date with your chosen caterer (no exact headcount required at this point)

3) You send out your invitations, whether through snail mail, email or social media, usually 6 weeks before the event, 8 weeks to those who live far away.

4) Your invites should have an R.S.V.P. date on them approximately ten days prior to your event.

5) All those that do not respond by this date or respond no, go on your 'no' list, you can recheck with them but unless they give an absolute yes it’s a no.

6) Everyone that responds with a maybe goes on the 'no' list, unless they change it to a yes by the r.s.v.p date. why? Most people who say maybe just don’t want to hurt your feelings and are unlikely to show up, however, there are a few genuine maybe's but the person in question will change their maybe to a yes or no by the r.s.v.p date. You can recheck with the rest just in case but 'maybe' is a negative answer.

7) All those who say yes, are likely to be there, don’t forget to include yourself in the headcount.

8) This number is now quite reliable, and this is the number of people you buy food for.

9) Caterers are actively reducing food waste so please never order less food for the number of people you know are coming as you won’t have enough food. Caterers used to have a bad reputation for being irresponsible food wasters and that is no longer true.

10) So, you sent out 120 invites and 70 people responded with a yes, then 70 people is your final headcount for your event and this number is based on actual numbers given to you by your guests.

It's not a perfect science by any means but it is responsible and appropriate planning. When you use this method you will have so much more success from a money standpoint and the impact on the environment as your food waste should be minimal to none. Go here to check out the best party planning tips >>>>

PLEASE NOTE: Always put food waste in green bags and green bins for proper disposal never in a regular bin.

Blog post by Lorna Robins owner of Buffet Heroes in Stockport.

Servicing the Stockport, Manchester and Cheshire area of the North West.

For party catering requests please email

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